We are less than 112 days away from the general election. For Southend Labour party, that means that the campaign is well and truly underway. We have two excellent candidates selected for the two Southend seats (Ian Gilbert in Rochford & Southend East, and Julian Ware-Lane in Southend West), and leaflets have been going out and doors being knocked on for months.
According to a Daily Express report a few weeks back, the Lib Dems are yet to select candidates in more than half of all parliamentary seats across the country. I can, actually, believe this. After all, in Southend they have no candidates yet.
Once upon a time, the Liberal Democrats were big noise in Southend. In 2010 they took second place in Southend West. Their fortunes have since faded rather dramatically, in Southend as across the rest of the country, in large part because of their presence in government.
Far from “Poor dears!”, my view is that they have finally had to face reality in their politics. The “cake for all” policies that they campaigned on have been exposed as undeliverable nonsense (Something which the Greens ought to be wary of -Ed). In contrast to their fluffy manifesto promising abolition of tuition fees and no cuts, they have enabled some of the most vicious behaviours of the Conservatives in government, and are reaping what they have sown. Now that they cannot be all things to all people, they are on the verge of becoming nothing to anybody.
In 2010, Paul Collins won the Southend Council ward of Westborough. Last year he was up for re-election, and was roundly defeated, coming behind Labour and UKIP. In the absence of the Cleggmania bounce, the Lib Dem popularity evaporated.
Perhaps that has something to do with their failure to yet find candidates for the Southend seats?
Well, from what I hear they do have someone in mind for Southend West. Quite why this person hasn’t been officially selected, announced and started campaigning, I couldn’t say — but they are cutting it fine.
In Rochford & Southend East, on the other hand, I have it on good authority that their local leader Graham Longley won’t be standing for them. It’s never been a likely gain for them, but part of being a major party has always been presumed that you stand in all parliamentary seats.
How surprising that they seem to be struggling to find volunteers for the May 7th firing squad.
Despite decisively losing the local elections in Southend last year, end finishing up with four fewer seats than they started with, the Lib Dems ended up with a seat on the cabinet and the chair of the Development Control committee. Not too bad, eh?
And political mathematics mean that they are likely to remain a junior partner of the administration as their last strongholds are eroded away. That errosion is likely to continue in the 2015 local elections, and I sincerely doubt that they will be able to find a full slate of candidates across the borough.
If you need no other indication of the parlous state of the Lib Dems, then the fact that we are less than four months from the general election, and are still none the wiser who the yellow names on the ballot papers will be.